You’re Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Here’s a sneak preview of what I’m hoping you’ll finish in a certain publication you might have heard of.  No guarantee, of course, but fingers crossed.

He had told me he needed to leave over an hour ago, but he was still here. A battle of wits was in full swing. I was winning, and I could tell he liked it.

The banter continued, the chemistry, obvious. He finally paused, studying my face. My chest tightened. I knew that look, and I knew what was coming.

“You are, I don’t know, I’ve just never met anyone…”

I stopped him before he could finish, “Are you married?”

He laughed, clearly taken aback, then looked down.

“No. I mean, not technically. Or I guess technically I am, but it’s been over for a long time.”

This is now one of the first questions I ask if I’m interested in someone. And this is what I’ve learned: “no” usually means yes and “getting a divorce” means I want a divorce, but I’m not yet and won’t be for an indeterminate amount of time.

To be clear, I’m not seeking out men who are married. But as it turns out, being 40 and newly single seems to be the status quo. It also turns out that single is open to interpretation.

When I first got divorced, one ex-boyfriend after another started reaching out. I was a bit naïve in the beginning, thinking they just wanted to catch up. I quickly realized that even if we aren’t the type to keep our married status current or obvious, social media can be telling if someone’s paying attention. It can also be very deceptive.

When the one I never quite got over showed up, I, of course, scoured his social media. His status? Married. There was a good amount of pictures of his kids and family vacations, so I reasoned he must just want to catch up.

After a drink or two, however, I got the truth. He’d been separated for months. The marriage was over and had been for years. The situation was complicated: the kids, the house, trying to separate finances… but he was finally ready to move on.

This all made sense at the time. My divorce was painful and not immediate. But logistically, it was relatively simple and finalized within a few months. In short, we didn’t have children.

So I listened. I listened to him tell me that he’s thought about me all this time, that he loves his kids but wondered if he made the wrong decision, that the reality is, I’m the person he wants to be with. Yes, I was still a little crazy, but I’m like no one he’s ever met…

I believed him and we plunged in. I had the person I thought I was meant to be with, and he had an exciting distraction from the painful reality of his day-to-day.

Therein lies the tragic flaw. For men in the thick of a mid-life crisis, I’m a distraction from reality, existing in the realm of a fantasy they conjure up.

I’ve become their manic pixie dream girl, the female version of a night in shining armor who “…has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.”

This is it, in a nutshell: (explained by Hugo Schwzer)

I thought less about her and more about how it was she made me feel… As unstable as she may be, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl not only senses a young man’s potential in a way he can’t, she intuitively knows how to lead him to his destiny. She knows him better than he knows himself, or so he believes. That convenient assumption allows the young man both to adore the MPDG and to avoid any responsibility for reciprocity. How can he be expected to give anything back when she has this magical intuition about the world that so vastly exceeds his own?


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Penetrable Fortress

I sometimes wish my heart would callous. When it’s surpassed its threshold, an impenetrable fortress would rise, defenses firmly in place.

But it doesn’t…

balloon.pink
                                                                                                             *Illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

It remains open, taking in everything at once,
with an intensity that maybe one day…will transform good intentions, into magic.                                                                                                                                                                                         

Finding your Soulmate 101 (or whatever the prereq to that would be)

“Do you believe soulmates exist?”

My friend asked me this as he was telling me about his impending breakup.

“And if they do, how do we know we’ve found our actual soul mate vs. just a deep connection or fleeting love? Is it really worth the energy and potential pain if we’re not sure?”

I answered the first question without hesitation. “Yes, absolutely.” But the second one gave me pause. How do you know, especially in the beginning, when it all feels magical?

But yes, there is definitely a distinction. Putting it into words, however, is the equivalent of trying to explain how it feels to be loved or to have faith.

Love feels like your soul has been kissed. Faith feels like love in its purest form.

But that’s hard to conjure up on a whim, especially while trying to avoid saying all the things that made me cringe when I was in the thick of a heartbreak.

My enlightened response? 

“I don’t know…you just know.”

If that doesn’t make you cringe…ambiguities and sweeping generalizations are the last thing you want to hear when your heart is being ripped out. You want fucking answers.

So I decided it best to keep my mouth shut, nod my head empathetically and refrain from rattling off reasons why it’s for the best. All I really wanted to do, however, was encourage him to memorize how he feels right now so he’ll remember the next time this happens: the pain really doesn’t last forever…I think.

Thankfully, I opted to keep my mouth shut.

I saw his relationship unfold from the beginning. There were obvious warning signs, but he couldn’t see them, of course. We rarely can.

We’re too immersed in the present moment, relishing in the excitement of discovery. We finally found someone who fits, who can finish our sentences, celebrate our quirks, shine light on the beautiful parts that get lost when no one’s there to name them. We found someone to play with, to laugh with, to make our hearts fuller, lighter. We found our soul mate…

Or did we? How do we know for sure, if what we found is real, if it’s worth the gamble when the stakes are so high.

We don’t, I guess…until we do.

Full Disclosure:

Okay, I don’t really know that “you just know.”

It makes sense that you would. I’ve heard that’s how it works. But I honestly can’t speak from experience. I’ve never met mine, not that kind, I don’t think. I thought I did. But, I would know, right?

The whole thing got me thinking. Not just about ‘finding my soulmate’, all of it- the different shades, degrees and patterns of connection, love and relationships.

But seriously, I’m still here? 101? I should have a Ph.D. in this shit by now. Or at least be making substantial progress. So why do I still feel like I’m learning how to spell?

Y-O-U  A-R-E  D-O-I-N-G  T-H-I-S  A-L-L  W-R-O-N-G

No, this isn’t where I want to be- sifting through relationships that are frustrating and unfulfilling. And truly, as much as it might appear to consume me, I’m not on some mad quest to find the one. I’m fine with a break from it all, knowing that I’m still a bit fragile and borderline calloused…not a good place to start from, I’ve discovered.

Yet they continue to surface, and I continue to play them out: these impossible scenarios that turn into an insidious dance- one that gets replayed over and over, making sure I stay a little fragile and increasingly calloused.

So time for a bit more self-reflection (which I assure you, I’m super excited about).

However, I have additional incentive this time; my friend needs some answers.

So I did a little research…

main-qimg-2592687103b4ae9ed523a74fcbd39950-c
Picture courtesy- KosovaLive360

Next week: No assignments. Attendance encouraged, open-mind required.
Extra credit for any shared soulmate encounters.

A Love Story of Sorts

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll offer up a love story of sorts.

Okay, it’s not really a “love story”, in the traditional sense. But it is a story, and it does involve love.

In the romantic sense, love has proven itself to be a fickle companion. I’ve lost myself in it and also found myself. I’ve sworn it off completely, and then blindly plunged back in. I’ve felt it with a force as powerful as breath, and now find myself wondering if it even exists.

But I’m a romantic and seem to be incapable of giving up on it completely.

So that brings me to Valentine’s Day. I admittedly get seduced by it all: a day dedicated solely to celebrating the person I love and being spoiled by the person who loves me. It’s a subject I believe worthy of its own holiday.

But I’m also acutely aware that this day can place loneliness and heartbreak at center stage, making the absence of the person we love as consuming as their presence used to be liberating.

That’s the side of it I was on, once again. There was no lover to spoil. And besides the sweet guy at the coffee shop, I wasn’t the object of anyone’s affection. (okay, that didn’t prove to be entirely true, but we’ll stick to the subject at hand.)

All to say, I expected to be in the same place I was last year: front and center.

I am, in fact, front and center, but not in the same place.

It feels more like equilibrium.

There was no huge revelation that occurred. I didn’t even realize anything had changed until the sweet boy at the coffee shop gave me a chocolate heart. It made me happy. And I didn’t want it to be from anyone else. And I was completely content with the fact that I had the whole day to myself. And there wasn’t anyone I was missing (not entirely true, either. I miss Biscuit terribly but “subject at hand”.)

It seems I unknowingly declared a truce.

Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to move on, I kept looking back. I’ve recycled everything possible- memories, relationships, behaviors- all of which kept taking me back to the exact same place I was before…which was the last place I wanted to be.

This isn’t to say that my mind has completely stopped reminding me of what’s lurking beneath the surface. But I finally understand its tactics. I can catch it now, reel it in and release what has clearly been sustaining my demons all along.

Okay, confession.

There is this one last relationship I’m trying to rekindle. It’s risky to be sure. It was extremely messy before and full-on destructive when we parted ways. But I really do believe it will be different this time.

I think she’s finally realized she had something special that she came really close to losing.

and-suddenly-she-found-herself-grateful.

Searching for Words, Finding Hope

I’ve lost them, my words.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I know where they are. They’re in my head, racing around at a dizzying pace.

They spend the day building up momentum for the seemingly endless night ahead- unleashing with a force that is as deafening as it is despotic.

And they’re tired and pissed and terrified that they’ll be trapped in there forever.

As am I.

I first blamed their retreat on the holidays. Maybe I was just depressed. Or maybe it was because I was editing other people’s words all day and I didn’t have the energy to come up with my own.

Or maybe I was actually never a writer at all. Maybe it was just a phase or a lifeline to keep me from drifting off to a point from which I couldn’t return.

I tried to exercise patience. I decided, if I couldn’t write, I would spend my time learning how to write instead.

Terrible idea. Everything I read only confirmed it: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Technique, imagery, character development, piecing together a plot? Yeah, I haven’t really been doing any of that. I’ve just been trying to keep my protagonist from falling apart.

Although I did discover that I at least have the five essential elements of ‘a story’ in place: all the characters are ready to go, I have an interesting mix of settings to work with, my plot is established, and there’s most definitely a conflict… in desperate need of a resolution.

It’s that last one, however, the resolution part, that’s the problem. I was sure this whole mess would be resolved by now. Or at least enough of it that any real threat of another maelstrom taking me down was minimal.

But it’s been a year. And things are still so fucking messy. And it still feels bizarre to laugh. And making it through the day without fighting back tears at some point feels equally bizarre.

I push through it. I make sure to smile and do what it takes to distract everyone from noticing what feels like a gaping hole in my chest. But I’m tired, and now, it seems even my words are failing me.

I do, of course, have good days, quite a few in fact. But when they happen, I find myself looking over my shoulder, waiting for disappointment to catch back up with me. It seems I can’t keep ahead of it. And for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if I ever will.

orange.blossoms

But it finally hit me last night, why they’ve been trapped. I was walking home, mad at myself for forgetting my gloves and wishing I could better embrace this whole ‘no car’ thing. I was just about to dart across the street to beat the approaching cars when something made me stop.

I turned around to retrace my steps and breathed in as deeply as I could, feeling the cold air scraping against my lungs. But nothing.

I realized how ridiculous it was and turned around to head home, then stopped again. There it was.

The smell of orange blossoms.

I closed my eyes.

and felt the uneven cobblestone beneath my feetI gathered up the bottom of my dress to better navigate my way through the crowd, seizing every opportunity to forge ahead without slamming into one of the orange trees lining the street. Flamenco music spilled out of every bar- all packed with locals sipping on manzanilla as they made their way to Feria.

An old man stopped, smiled and tipped his hat as I walked by. His words- infused with the sweet smell of orange blossoms- trailed behind me…

“Ahh, las maravillas de Sevilla’.   (Ah, the wonders of Sevilla)

Adorable+kids+dressed+in+flamenco+dresses+-+Feria+De+Abril,+Seville

I looked around for the source, tilting my head back to study the tree sprawled out above me. Fluorescent lights clung to its thin, rigid branches, turning them an ashen shade of brown that rendered any sign of life impossible.

Reality set back in and the only thing I could smell fumes coming from the cars behind me. The relentless heaviness that’s been lodged in my chest resumed its place, extinguishing any trace of what had taken me back to a time when desperation seemed impossible.

So this is why I’ve lost my words. Not because a resolution hasn’t surfaced yet, but because I’m starting to believe one never will. I’m starting to lose hope.

When I smelled the scent of orange blossoms, when I thought back to Sevilla, I got the same feeling I do when I see the first tiny buds appear on the trees after a long winter. Or when I’m walking down the street in a far-off country- foreign words, enchanting music and exotic smells swirling around me. Or when I see the person I love light up when I walk in the room.

Those moments when I want to take everything in all at once, feel it as deeply as I can, and savor the magic of it all.

But going to Spain isn’t an option right now and it feels like it never will be. And green is nowhere to be seen. And the thought of ever falling in love again feels impossible.

Hope is powerful. As opposed to its dark cousin, despair, which paralyzes us, hope energizes and mobilizes us. Beyond that, hope affects those around us, lifting them as well as us.
~ Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D.

The thing is, I don’t write just for me. And I had convinced myself when I got to the other side of this, I could maybe be a source of hope for those who had lost it.

But that was when still had hope, when I still truly believed all that would remain at this point would be a scar- a substantial one to be sure- but the pain would be a distant memory.

Despair is not what I thought would be commanding my thoughts, keeping me up at night and stealing my words. And despair is not what I want to elicit with my words.

I waited for a break in the traffic and darted across the street, landing on the patch of grass underneath my favorite tree.

He had been the highlight of my walk in the fall, greeting me each morning with a new display of colors that were more enchanting than the day before. But now he was stripped bare. He looked cold and lifeless. He looked desperate.

This morning I made it a point to stop again and give him the benefit of daylight.

He didn’t look lifeless at all. He looked strong and peaceful.

And I realized, he isn’t bare. He’s covered in leaves that are growing just beneath the surface, building up the momentum they need to unleash with a force that will allow them to flourish.

They are there and have been all along, full of hope and wonder. I just can’t see them yet…but they are there.

buds

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” ~ Maya Angelou

Maelstrom

r.druatemer.drowning.                                                                                                                  ~ illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

Do you wish sometimes you had never met me?

No. I wish you had never left me. 

I had to… you would have never left me.

* Maelstrom: A powerful whirlpool in the sea or river. A situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.

Remembering three boys I never knew

A year ago today, thirty minutes from now, three boys died. I hit them with my car, and they all died. I know it wasn’t my fault, most days. I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time. But there are still those moments when an undercurrent of guilt won’t fully submit to logic.

I think about them a lot, although not as much as what might be considered normal. Not because I am callous or unaffected by it. That’s not it at all. I just had to implement an emotional amputation of sorts; this was only one of a series of events that was so unbelievably heartbreaking, distancing myself from it mentally and emotionally was simply what I had to do for survival purposes.

But I think about them, especially on holidays. I think about their families trying to just get them over with. I picture the empty spot at the dinner table they pretend to ignore and the memories that must haunt them when they think about what they were doing this time last year. I think about what I was doing this time last year, which was sitting alone on a balcony in Arlington, Texas, just trying to get it over with, wondering why it was me who lived and not them and kind of wishing it was the other way around.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about three boys who had their whole lives ahead of them. It’s to send out love to them (wherever their souls reside) and their families and friends who miss them terribly. It’s to say that I truly know the pain of having to wake up every morning the first year without them and think about what you were doing that same day last year…when they were still alive…. when they still had their whole lives ahead of them.

It’s to say that I fully feel the weight of it all today, that it breaks my heart, and that I’m so very grateful that it wasn’t me and I still have my life ahead of me.

… but what I wouldn’t give to know that this Thursday there were three less empty spots at the dinner table.

Original Post: The accident (warning: it’s graphic in some parts)